Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

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Overview

The Courage to Heal is an inspiring, comprehensive guide that offers hope and encouragement to every woman who, was sexually abused as a child -- and those who care about her. Although the effects of child sexual abuse are long-term and severe, healing is possible. The authors weave personal experience with professional knowledge to show the reader how she can come to terms with her past while moving powerfully into the future. They provide clear explanations, practical suggestions, a map of the healing journey, ...

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Overview

The Courage to Heal is an inspiring, comprehensive guide that offers hope and encouragement to every woman who, was sexually abused as a child -- and those who care about her. Although the effects of child sexual abuse are long-term and severe, healing is possible. The authors weave personal experience with professional knowledge to show the reader how she can come to terms with her past while moving powerfully into the future. They provide clear explanations, practical suggestions, a map of the healing journey, and many moving first-person examples of the recovery process drawn from their interviews with hundreds of survivors.

Definitive in scope, The Courage to Heal speaks directly to the survivor in a warm and personal way:

  • TAKING STOCK -- outlines the effects of child sexual abuse and the ways women cope over time.
  • THE HEALING PROCESS -- explores each stage from the decision to heal and remembering through breaking silence, knowing it wasn't your fault, nurturing the inner child, and grief and anger, to resolution and moving on.
  • CHANGING PATTERNS -- offers in-depth guidance for shifting self-defeating patterns in specific areas of one's present life, including self-esteem, feelings, intimacy, sexuality, and dealing with families.
  • SUPPORTERS OF SURVIVORS -- provides insight and strategies for partners of survivors, family members, and counselors.
  • COURAGEOUS WOMEN -- profiles survivors who share the challenges and triumphs of their own healing journeys.
  • HONORING THE TRUTH -- a substantial new Afterword that refutes the "false memory" argument and presents athorough and enlightening response to the backlash.
  • RESOURCE GUIDE -- fully updated for this edition -- informs readers about therapy, healing activities, recommended reading, support groups, self-help programs, and services and organizations.

Outlines effects of abuse & the ways women cope/ explores the healing process/profiles survivors/etc.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060950668
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1994
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 604
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Bass

A workshop facilitator for survivors, their partners, and counselors, Ellen Bass is co-editor of I Never Told Anyone and the author of several volumes of poetry. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

EFFECTS: RECOGNIZING THE DAMAGE

People have said to me, "Why are you dragging this up now?" Why? WHY? Because it has controlled every facet of my life. It has damaged me in every possible way. It has destroyed everything in my lifethat has been of value. It has prevented me from living a comfortable emotional life. It's prevented me from being able to love clearly. It took my children away from me. I haven't been able to succeed in the world. If I had a comfortable childhood, I could be anything today. I know that everything I don't deal with now is one more burden I have to carry for the rest of my life. I don't care if it happened 500 years ago! It's influenced me all that time, and it does matter. It matters very much.
-- Jennierose Lavender, 47-year-old survivor

The long-term effects of child sexual abuse can be so pervasive that it's sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly how the abuse affected you. It permeates everything: your sense of self, your intimate relationships, your sexuality, your parenting, your work life, even your sanity. Everywhere you look, you see its effects. As one survivor explained:

It's like those pictures I remember from Highlights for Children magazine. The bicycle was hidden in a tree, a banana was growing from someone's ear, and all the people were upside-down. The caption underneath said, "What's wrong with this picture?" But so many things were disturbed and out of place, it was often easier to say, "What's right with this picture?"

Many survivors have been too busy surviving to notice the ways theywere hurt by the abuse. But you cannot heal until you acknowledge the areas that need healing.

Because sexual abuse is just one of many factors that influenced your development, it isn't always possible to isolate its effects from the other influences on your life. Is your selfesteem low because you were an AfricanAmerican child raised in a racist society? Because you grew up in a culture that devalues women? Because your mother was an alcoholic? Or because you were molested when you were nine? It's the interplay of hundreds of factors that make you who you are today.

The way the abuse was handled when you were a child has a lot to do with its subsequent impact. If a child's disclosure is met with compassion and effective intervention, the healing begins immediately. But if no one noticed or responded to your pain, or if you were blamed, not believed, or suffered further trauma, the damage was compounded. And the ways you coped with the abuse may have created further problems.

Not all survivors are affected in the same way. You may do well in one area of your life, but not in another. You may be competent at work and in parenting but have trouble with intimacy. Some women have a constant nagging feeling that something is wrong. For others, the damage is so blatant that they feel they've wasted their lives:
As far as I'm concerned, my whole life was stolen from me. I didn't get to be who I could have been. I didn't get the education I should have gotten when I was young. I married too early. I hid behind my husband. I didn't make contact with other people. I haven't had a rich life. It's not ever too late, but I didn't start working on this until I was thirtyeight, and not everything can be retrieved. And that makes me very angry.

The effects of child sexual abuse can be devastating, but they do riot have to be permanent. As you read this chapter, you may find yourself nodding your head -- "Uh-huh, me too" -- recognizing, perhaps for the first time, the ways in which the abuse affects your life. Look at the following lists and ask yourself how you've been affected. Such recognition will probably be painful, but it is, in fact, part of the healing process.

When we ask "Where are you now?" we describe the range of effects that survivors of child sexual abuse experience; this is to help you look honestly at the impact of abuse on your life today. The lists are not a diagnostic tool and are not intended to serve as a way to determine whether or not you've been sexually abused.

Some of the effects of child sexual abuse are quite specific -- such as intrusive images of the abuse while making love. Others are more general -- such as low self-esteem or difficulty in expressing feelings -- and can be caused by circumstances or events other than child sexual abuse. It is important to be aware that physical and emotional abuse can also lead to many of the symptoms listed here.

If you recognize your own problems in the following lists but ate unsure whether you were sexually abused, don't feel you need to label yourself as a survivor before you're ready. Take care of yourself. Get support. Work on healing from the experiences you're sure of. And trust that over time your history will become more clear.

SELF-ESTEEM AND PERSONAL POWER

When you were abused, your boundaries, your right to say no, your sense of control in the world, were violated. You were powerless. The abuse humiliated you, gave you the message that you were of little value. Nothing you did could stop it.

If you told someone about what was happening to you, they probably ignored you, said you made it up, or told you to forget it. They may have blamed you. Your reality was denied or twisted and you felt crazy. Rather than see the abuser or your parents as bad, you came to believe that you did not deserve to be taken care of, that you in fact deserved abuse. You felt isolated and alone.

The Courage to Heal. Copyright © by Ellen Bass. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9
Preface to the Third Edition 13
Preface to the First Edition 17
Introduction: Healing Is Possible 23
About the Stories in This Book 29
Using the Writing Exercises 31
Pt. 1 Taking Stock
Effects: Recognizing the Damage 37
Coping: Honoring What You Did to Survive 45
Pt. 2 The Healing Process
An Overview 63
The Decision to Heal 66
The Emergency Stage 72
Remembering 77
Believing It Happened 96
Breaking Silence 103
Understanding That It Wasn't Your Fault 115
The Child Within 122
Trusting Yourself 127
Grieving and Mourning 129
Anger - The Backbone of Healing 133
Disclosures and Confrontations 144
Forgiveness? 160
Spirituality 166
Resolution and Moving On 172
Pt. 3 Changing Patterns
The Process of Change 183
Self-Esteem and Personal Power 188
Feelings 201
Your Body 217
Intimacy 233
Sex 249
Children and Parenting 280
Families of Origin 299
Counseling 321
Pt. 4 For Supporters of Survivors
The Basics 331
For Family Members 334
For Partners 337
Pt. 5 Courageous Women
An Introduction 363
Judy Gold 365
Eva Smith 373
Janel Robinson 379
Soledad 384
Evie Malcolm 392
Anna Stevens 398
Kyos Featherdancing 405
Lorraine Williams 411
Randi Taylor 416
Alicia Mendoza 421
S. R. Benjamin 428
Diane Hugs 437
Krishnabai 440
Michelle and Artemis 446
Mary McGrath 456
Gizelle 461
Pt. 6 Honoring the Truth: A Response to the Backlash
The Emerging Backlash 477
A Little History 479
Who Supports the Backlash 483
The Truth About the Backlash 485
What We Do and Don't Know About Memory 513
Personal Strategies for Dealing with the Backlash 522
Rachel's Story 524
Future Visions 531
Resource Guide 535
Index 589
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 30 )
Rating Distribution

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(21)

4 Star

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2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2008

    Save your life, do NOT buy this book!

    These authors have no credentials to support their writing. Recovered Memory Therapy can destroy your family and your life---you do not get better and move on with your life, you end up with endless therapy, hospitalizations, medication, huge therapy bills and no hope. Find instead a mainstream therapist if you were abused and RUN don't walk from anyone who says they thing you have symptoms of 'repressed memories'. People of abuse have real memories and don't need hypnosis or guided imagery to remember.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2007

    A reviewer

    READ THIS BOOK! I read this book years ago to learn more about the woman I was dating. She had been sexually abused by her father as a child. I was trying to get a better understanding of who she is. At the time, I had supressed my own memories of sexual abuse. Years later I did recover my memories of my sexual abuse by my cousin. I was able to pull all the information I had learned about abuse from this and other books I had read and I believe my healing started from the very first day I remembered. I have been able to reconcile with my abuser and we have a healthy relationship today. I found out today my own sister was abused as a child also. This is the first book I suggested to her to read. She is feeling all the same things I felt only she is more confused about them than I. I really hope her and the rest of you out there read this book and start on the path to healing. I have never sexually abused someone and I never will thanks to this book and the Bible. I pray for all of you out there going through what so many of us have. Please read this book, it will change your life for the better.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2005

    This book can destroy families and marriage

    This book destroyed our marriage. My wife suffering from depression was given this book by her psycologist who then with hypnotism recovered her repressed memories from the age of 2 years. All of which were proven false, but not until the damage was done. She went out and accused her whole community of sexual assault. It has done untold damage to her and her family. Her psycologist then just bowed out of the picture.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2003

    Reader Beware

    The content of this book is alarmingly inaccurate. Memories that a reader was previously unaware of simply cannot be 'recovered' decades later with any accuracy. External verification of any 'recovered' memories is essential. I did not like how the authors promote cutting off one's family! The text is offensively misandric. The therapy endorsed by this book is dangerous in that vulnerable women can create completely inaccurate memories. I do not recommend this book whatsoever.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2000

    Really Bad Book

    Many people have read this book and then falsely accused a family member of sexual assault which never occurred. This book encourages women to 'remember' things from 20 or 30 years ago which never actually occurred. Many families have been severely damaged because of this irreponsible book. The book does not require proof that these things happened, only that the person has a 'feeling' it happened. The list of 'symptoms' which 'prove' past sexual assault include things such as eating too much or too little, trusting too much or too little, drinking too much or not at all, having headaches, back aches, dental problems, or 'feeling uncomfortable' when incest is discussed. People should talk to a doctor, priest, and their families instead of reading this political diatribe.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2000

    Very helpful

    This book is written in a caring and nurturing way to ease the topic about sexual abuse. It gave me insight into my experience as well as wonderful encouragement and soltuions. If you are a victim of child sexual abuse, you owe it to yourself to read this book. It is an important resource to have and has helped me tremendously in my healing process.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2010

    TOXIC BOOK

    This is one of the most dangerous and revolting books I've ever read. I "recovered" memories after reading this book, which was submitted to my by 3 therapists as a must read. Baloney! I never forgot the sexual abuse when I was a child by my cousin, but I was led to believe that my father molested me as well after reading this book and through "therapy" (and I use that term loosely). I agree with another poster: RUN, don't walk, away from this book and any counselor, therapist or psychiatrist who recommends this book to you. My life was ruined for 3 years because of the hacks who wrote this book, and the hack counselors who "help recover hidden memories." I don't believe in book burning, but in my opinion, this particular book would do more for society if they were all burned. This book is pure BS.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2008

    This is a very helpful book

    I first started reading this book nine years ago, when I was in the Emergency Phase of my recovery, and it helped me realize that I was not crazy. It also let me know that I was not alone. There were other women out there, just like me, going through the same process that I was. That comforted me a great deal.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2005

    This Book Is Extremely Helpful In My Experience

    My pastor bought me this book when I was talking to her about some of my own experiences. I have found that this book has helped me to see that I am not alone in this problem, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I even struggled through some of the writing exercises within the book, but it just made me even stronger. If you have a good therapist, as well as this book, you are starting down the road to heal. You are not alone in this battle. You will make it through!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2005

    Incredibly Helpful

    This book is absolutely incredible. I have seen every pyschologist possible since coming out with being molested 11 years ago and my newest one gave me a copy of this book. What this book has helped me to achieve since having it, I can't even put a price on. This is a must have if you or someone you know has ever been the victim of sexual abuse.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2004

    Life Altering

    This book has changed my life and has help me over come so many problems I didn't even know existed. Amust read for someone needing to heal!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2002

    THIS BOOK SAVED MY SANITY

    I USED THIS BOOK ALONG WITH MY THERAPIST AND IT TRULY PUT MY LIFE ON THE RIGHT TRACK. IT HELPED ME TO RELEASE THE PAIN AND ANGER AND TAUGHT ME TO VALUE MYSELF AND HONOR THE TRUTH...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2002

    Life is worth living, not just enduring. Overcome !!!

    This book was recommended by my therapist. I was amazed at how much I could relate to the stories and other things in this book. It really validated my feelings. I gained much stregnth and did have the courage to heal. It was very intense, finding out daily who I was as a person, no longer defining myself by others. I now know who I am and what I want out of life. The most awesome book I have ever read, Thank you for writing this. You along with God has saved my life.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2001

    The *best* book--you need this for your recovery!

    This is a fabulous book, and has something in it for every survivor and survivor's supporter. This book is all about supporting women in their recoveries. Many, many women are sexually assaulted and/or abused. The U.S. govt. says that 25% of girls under 18 are sexually assaulted in this country (see the FBI crime statistics home page). And those are the reported numbers--we all know how often this kind of thing goes un-reported. <BR><br> I notice that one reviewer said that this book ruined his family, but I have to say that this book (along with a supportive therapist) have SAVED my family, and indeed, has contributed greatly toward saving my life. I give this book my HIGHEST recommendation.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2001

    This Book Literally Saved My Life

    This Book has given me the courage to accept the notions I've had all my life, that I was sexually abused as a child. Now, after 47 years, I can start to heal. I look forward to the day that I can see life through clear eyes, reality, and peace.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2001

    Much Heralded Book Disappointing

    I bought this book with much eagerness to rush home and read it. I was dismayed to find the graphic details, and hate poured out by some of the victims with the authors actually stating that forgiveness toward abuser is not necessary for successful healing. Some of the stories are graphic and chilling. The author, herself, does gives a touching story relating to herself and also how her lesbian lover is helping her to recover from the abuse. The saving part of the book to me is the ability to relate to others who have gone through the abuse. You can recognize the the same feelings and emotions, and recognize that there is healing out there after a long and painful road. (The courage to heal workbook is more practical, if your the kind of person to work things out through doing and thinking.)

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2001

    For help and support this is it.

    I love this book! I can't express how this book has helped me relate in this world. Through reading about other's journeys and healing I know I am not alone. With that, I've been given helpful tools for my journey. These women's voices were helpful in finding my own voice. This book is for anyone who even has an inkling that they've been sexually abused as a child. For all it a tool to progress from victim to survivor.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2000

    Encouraging and Validating

    The identification with so many of the stories and feelings expressed helped to validate the overwhelming feelings I couldn't understand at the beginning of my healing proces. This book has helped me to attack so many of the issues that accompany childhood sexual abuse!!! I cannot thank the authors enough for providing survivors with this comprehensive tool! Their down-to-earth approach (without pscho-babble) has been so useful that I recommend anyone who has had any kind of abuse growing up to utilize this along their own healing journey. I use the information to remind me that healing is possible and that I can change negative perspectives into positive actions. I cannot say enough about how helpful and inspiring this book has been. The best self-help book I've seen and read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2000

    Extremly Helpful

    If you were a victim of child sexual abuse then you must read this book. It has helped me understand so much more about myself. And now that my fiance has read it he is much more understanding, and is willing to bend over backwards to support me in my healing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2000

    My Life began to change when I had the courage to heal...

    The Courage to Heal is my bible. I keep it close to my heart and always near by. I found inspiration and comfort. I struggled to get through the pages, this was not an easy task! I recover still today and am so grateful for the strength of sharing of all the survivors who did have the courage to heal!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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